This article was first published on the Network website.

Reg Varney was no stranger to the grim reality of show business. He’d started off as a child performer at the Plumstead Radical Club in the 1920s, playing ‘Tiger Rag’ on the piano and keeping the audience laughing with his patter between the songs. Over the following decades, he worked his way around the music hall and variety circuit and, like most performers, had his fair share of ups and downs. For a while after the war, it looked like his double act with Benny Hill would make his fortune, but Hill’s dislike of live performing ended that partnership, and by the late 1950s Varney’s career was struggling. His big break came when he was cast…